PUD approves more electric rate increases for April 2016

More rate changes for Clallam County Public Utility District #1’s utility users are slated next year.

More rate changes for Clallam County Public Utility District #1’s utility users are slated next year.

PUD commissioners unanimously approved the PUD’s $59.4 million budget on Dec. 14, which includes a 3.8-percent increase for 30,000 electricity customers and a 6-percent increase for both 5,000 water and 60 sewer users with 900 of water/sewer users in Sequim.

PUD General Manager Doug Nass said the electric rate increase is “consistent with our strategic objective of maintaining stable rates and financial responsibility to our customers.”

“And while rate increases are not something customers want, they are necessary given current rate pressures,” he said. “Even with the rate increase though, we are fortunate to have among the lowest electric utility rates in the state and country.”

In April 2015, a 3.5-percent increase began for electric users averaging about $3.35 more a month following commissioners’ approval in December 2015. Next year’s 3.8 percent increase marks the fifth time in six years the commissioners agreed to raise electric rates.

New electricity increases go into effect on bills rendered on or after April 1, 2016, and water/sewer increases are effective on Feb. 1, 2016.

For electric customers, the new rate averages to about $4.20 per month using 1,200 kWh per month.

PUD staff said the actual retail electric rate increase is applied as an increase of $2.50 per month on the customer’s base charge and about 2 percent on kilowatt hours used, for a total of about 3.8 percent.


PUD staff give a few reasons why the rates rise though.

In the past two years, the weather has been unseasonably warm leading to less power usage and the budget coming in about $3 million less than projected in revenues.

Other cost issues for the PUD include the Bonneville Power Administration enacting an 8-percent wholesale rate every two years to help pay for aging infrastructure and machines along with increased health care costs for staff and the costs of meeting the mandates of Washington’s Energy Independence Act, aka I-937. In 2016, the PUD will pay about $302,000 on renewable energy credits for the Energy Independence Act.

PUD staff said they are splitting the BPA increases over two-year increments while dipping into about $2 million of reserves through 2019 as they expect more increases in 2017 and 2019.

In October 2015, the BPA increased rates by about 6 percent, which accounts for 44 percent of the PUD’s total budget.

For water and sewer users, the 6-percent increase follows the same amount increase earlier this year to pay for aging infrastructure. Water users will see their bills increase for that portion by about $2.50 on average and by $2.40 on the sewer portion.

Nass said, “With a smaller customer base and aging infrastructure, these (water/sewer) rate increases are necessary to not only maintain the system but also to make certain we are able to deliver the quality water expected.”